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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Russell Simmons' All Def Digital Hosts Town Hall As First Forum Focuses On Criminal Justice And Police Reform

Russell Simmons' All Def Digital Hosts Town Hall As First Forum Focuses On Criminal Justice And Police Reform

Professor, Author, Television Host, and Political Commentator Melissa Harris-Perry will Moderate the Forum along with TV Host, Producer and Philanthropist Nick Cannon; Panelists Include Ben Crump, Lawyer for Trayvon Martin; Gideon's Promise Founder Jon Rapping; Gregory Thomas, President of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Professionals; Dr. Melina Abdullah, Black Lives Matter, Ty Dolla $ign, Angela Simmons and more

LOS ANGELES, June 21, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Russell Simmons' All Def Digital (ADD) moves into social justice programming by launching ADD's first ever Town Hall. The event will be held on Thursday, June 23, 2016 beginning at 7:30 pm at the Montalban Theater in Los Angeles, CA. This is the first of a recurring series of conversations and town halls on social justice issues affecting urban communities, marginalized segments of society, and youth in disproportionate ways. This Town Hall will focus principally on criminal justice reform and policing.

The live event will be moderated by professor, author and political commentator Melissa Harris-Perry, whose popular weekly commentary show ran on MSNBC for 4 years. Harris-Perry will lead a discussion with a distinguished group of nationally recognized speakers and panelists including Ben Crump, President of the National Bar Association and lawyer for Trayvon Martin; Jon Rapping, Professor, MacArthur "Genius," former public defender, and founder and president of Gideon's Promise; Donna Lieberman, Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union; Gregory Thomas, President of National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives; Dr. Melina Abdullah, Black Lives Matter, Ty Dolla $ign and others. Nick Cannon will also serve as audience moderator for the evening.

"There are few topics more pressing in American society, in particular for minorities and youth, than policing and criminal justice reform," said Russell Simmons, co-founder of All Def Digital and longstanding social activist. "We want to meaningfully explore this complex issue -- from a variety of view points -- with some of the most recognized experts in the field today leading the discussion. Our hope is to bring a topic to the forefront that seemingly only gets raised against the backdrop of violence, in a forum where we can inform, educate and understand different perspectives - but hopefully lead to some unified coalition around actionable change. We believe we have assembled an extraordinary panel and know Melissa Harris-Perry and Nick Cannon will do a brilliant job as we launch our Town Hall series."

ADD's Town Hall will be an invite-only event, including prominent members of the community, elected officials, celebrities, professionals, activists, and students. To express interest in attending, please submit your name and organization to The event will be available for viewing on Facebook Live. Additionally, components will be released online via ADD's distribution network across social video platforms like Facebook and YouTube.

"We're proud to be expanding our live and digital programming efforts with a small but important step into social justice," said Sanjay Sharma, CEO of All Def Digital. "As our audience has continued to grow, spanning Millennial and Gen Z across race and ethnicity, so too has our role in urban youth culture. We will leverage our digital platform to help nationally recognized experts get in front of younger audiences to discuss issues that they care about, and are often disproportionately affected by."

All Def Digital (ADD) is the leading media company for urban-centric youth culture. ADD produces and distributes original content through its own media properties, social channels, traditional and premium television, theatrical motion pictures, live events, and brand partnerships through its newly established in-house creative agency and studio, ADHD. ADD is the fastest growing media brand in urban youth programming, touching over 100 million fans monthly across YouTube, Facebook and its other distribution channels.

Jeru Tillman serves as executive producer of the All Def Town Hall.


Melissa Harris-Perry is the Maya Angelou Presidential Chair at Wake Forest University. There she is the Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center.

Harris-Perry is Editor-in-Large at She hosted the television show "Melissa Harris-Perry" from 2012-2016 on weekend mornings on MSNBC.

She is the author of the award-winning Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, and Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.

Harris-Perry received her B.A. degree in English from Wake Forest University and her Ph.D. degree in political science from Duke University. She also studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Harris-Perry previously served on the faculty of the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and Tulane University.


For over 20 years, the multi-faceted Nick Cannon has entertained audiences on stage, television and film. As a comedian, TV executive producer and host, actor, writer, director, DJ, entrepreneur, philanthropist and children's book author, Cannon continues to take the industry by storm.

Cannon was most recently seen in Roadside/Amazon Studios' critically acclaimed film Chi-Raq, directed by Spike Lee. Cannon stars as the title character, and also co-wrote and performs the opening song.

In television Cannon is the creator, producer, and host of the highly successful MTV show, "Wild 'N Out", which returns for its 8(th) season this summer. He recently completed a cross-country tour with some "Wild 'N Out" comics and improvisers and documented the experience for a show called "Wild 'N Out Tour" for MTV2. Cannon is also the host of NBC's "America's Got Talent", and "Caught on Camera with Nick Cannon", also for NBC.

Cannon made his first appearance on the big screen alongside Will Smith in Men in Black II. Other film credits include Drumline, and Bobby. He recently wrote, directed and produced his first studio film School Dance, and produced the sequel to Drumline titled, Drumline: A New Beat. He has also inked a multi-year first look production deal with NBC Universal to develop scripted and unscripted fare for the network, and is currently in production on the reboot of "Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous".

Through his highly successful multi-media company NCredible Entertainment, Cannon produces TV and film projects, including Nickelodeon's Make It Pop, HALO Awards, TeenNick Top 10, and React To That. The company also has other entities as well, including a very successful line of consumer products.

Noted by the New York Times as "one of the most recognizable personalities in teen media," Cannon serves as Chairman of TeenNick, Nickelodeon's television network aimed at the teen audience. He is also the CEO of the teen magazine Celebrity High.

Cannon has always made the time to use his resources and his voice as a philanthropist to give back to the community and those in need, working with nationally recognized organizations such as Feeding America, Boys and Girls Club, Do Something, Toys for Tots, Stomp Out Bullying, Lupus Foundation of America and The National Kidney Foundation. He is also an active member on the Board of Directors of New York's St. Mary's Children's Hospital and running his own Nicholas Scott Cannon Foundation.


Through his legal prowess and advocacy in the Trayvon Martin case, the Martin Lee Anderson Boot Camp case, and the Robbie Tolan US Supreme Court Case, Attorney Benjamin Crump has created a significant legal legacy that ensures that the promise found in our nation's constitution is indeed real in every state, municipality and neighborhood. His legal acumen as both litigator and advocate has ensured that those most frequently marginalized are protected by their nation's contract with its constituency. The conspectus of his constitutional battles at both the local, state, and federal levels will be the textbook most frequently referenced by this and future generations of civil rights law in regard to the fundamental protections of our constitutional freedoms.

Benjamin Crump has been recognized as one of "The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 Lawyers", Ebony Magazine "Power 100 Most Influential African-Americans", and bestowed such covenant as the NAACP Thurgood Marshall Award, the SCLC Martin Luther King Servant Leader Award, the National Urban League's Whitney Young Award, and the AKA's Eleanor Roosevelt Award. In spite of his immense professional responsibilities, Benjamin Crump still finds time to serve his local community. He readily shares his professional and personal talents with local, statewide and national causes and charities. Mr. Crump was appointed as the inaugural Board Chairman of the Florida's Big Bend Fair Housing Center, Inc., a Federal Grant organization dedicated to eradication of housing discrimination that operates on a $3,000,000.00 annual budget. He also served as Board Chairman of the Legal Services of North Florida. Attorney Crump and his law partner, Daryl Parks, donated $1,000,000.00 to the organization's Capital Campaign to ensure that poor people would continue to have quality legal representation and access to the courts. Mr. Crump is President and co-founder of MyDad360, a mentoring program for fathers that has been acknowledged by President Obama's My Brother's Keeper Initiative and endorsed by Retired General Colin Powell. On July 23, 2015, Mr. Crump became the 73rd President of the National Bar Association, the largest organization of lawyers of color in the world, representing over 60,000 Black lawyers, judges, and legal professionals.

Attorney Crump believes in fighting to preserve the justice that minorities have achieved throughout the Civil Rights era and therefore served as General Counsel to the Florida State Conference of the NAACP, sits on the Board of the Innocence Project, and the Equal Justice Institute. Mr. Crump was elected as the Board Chairman of the Internationally Renowned Tallahassee Boys Choir, and he is the Past President of the National Florida State University Black Alumni Association. Mr. Crump is a Life Member and Chairman of the Grand Tribunal of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., Life Member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Life Member of the the NAACP and Urban League. He is also a member of Sigma Pi Phi Boule and the Michael R. Moore Lodge 764 PHA, Free and Accepted Masons. Furthermore, Attorney Crump and partner Daryl Parks share their firm's largesse with the community that has embraced them-most notably, they have endowed scholarships at Florida A&M University, Livingston College, and Florida State University for minority law students, as well as Bethune Cookman University.

Over the years Mr. Crump has dedicated his areas of practice in serious personal injury, wrongful death, and civil rights matters. Throughout his career he has handled civil litigation matters in state and federal courts throughout the country. He was the first African-American President of the Federal Bar Association for the Northern District of Florida, first African-American Chairman of the Florida State University College of Law Board of Directors, and the first African-American Chair of the Tallahassee Utility Commission. He is a member of the American Bar Association, American Association for Justice, The Florida Justice Association, American Board of Trial Advocates and William Stafford Inns of Court.

Mr. Crump is a frequent speaker and author, which includes his critically acclaimed article, "The Police Don't Shoot White Men in the Back: Representing Minorities in Police Brutality Cases". His work has been featured in documentaries such as BET's "I am Trayvon Martin: A Family's Fight for Justice", NPR's "How Lawyer Got America Talking About Trayvon Martin", "Beating Justice: The Martin Lee Anderson Story", and the soon to be released, "The Ferguson Cover-Up, the Tragedy Killing of Michael Brown". He is a member of Bethel Missionary Baptist Church where he serves on the Board of Trustees. He is married to the lovely, Dr. Genae Angelique Crump, guardian of two adopted cousins, Marcus and Chancellor Crump, and proud father of Brooklyn Zeta Crump.


Gregory A. Thomas serves as the Senior Executive for Law Enforcement Operations in the Office of the Kings County (Brooklyn, N.Y.) District Attorney, the third largest district attorney's office in the United States. In this capacity, he serves as a senior advisor to Kings County District Attorney Kenneth P. Thompson and his executive staff on criminal justice and law enforcement policy and procedures and is the principal liaison to the New York City Police Department (NYPD) and other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in relation to major investigations and operational matters. He also plays a senior leadership role in the work conducted by the Crime Strategies Unit, which was created by District Attorney Thompson to reduce the occurrence and frequency of violent crimes in Brooklyn, through the use of an approach that focuses resources on the "drivers of crime" and the identified "hot spots" where the majority of crime occurs.

Gregory Thomas brings to this position over thirty years of executive experience in the fields of criminal justice and public safety. He has served as Deputy Director of Planning and Response at the Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness; as Executive Director of the Office of School Safety and Planning (during the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001) with the New York City Department of Education; as an Assistant Commissioner with the New York City Fire Department; as the Associate Director of the City University of New York/NYPD Cadet Program at John Jay College of Criminal Justice; as a senior investigator and member of the executive staff with the Mollen Commission, the mayoral commission that investigated allegations of police corruption and the anti-corruption procedures of the NYPD; and as a First Deputy Inspector General with the New York City Department of Investigation, the New York City agency charged with investigating and referring for criminal prosecution cases of fraud, corruption and unethical conduct by New York City's over 300,000 employees, or contractors and others who receive money from the city.

During his time as a nationally recognized school/campus safety expert, consultant and conference speaker, he was featured in various international media venues such as the BBC, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, NPR Radio, the New York Times, the USA Today and the U.S. News and World Report. He also has authored and co-authored numerous academic publications and served as the lead editor and co-author of three books on school safety for the Janes Information Group, including the most comprehensive book published to date on school safety - the 450 page Janes Safe School Planning Guide for All Hazards. He is also the author of a book from Random House publishers titled Freedom from Fear: A Guide to Safety, Preparedness and the Threat of Terrorism, which offers advice to readers on how to prepare themselves and their families for a worst-case scenario like a natural disaster or an act of terrorism.

Mr. Thomas' professional affiliations include membership in the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) where he currently serves as their National President, as a member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and of the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS). He has also been associated with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), where he served as an assessor of various police departments across the nation.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York where he currently resides with his family, Mr. Thomas completed public school in New York City, and attended college at the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore where he received his Bachelor of Arts Degree in Sociology and at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University where he received his Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice.


Jonathan Rapping is a nationally renowned criminal justice innovator and 2014 MacArthur Foundation "Genius" Fellow, who moved from Washington, D.C. to Atlanta, because he found the injustice within our criminal justice system - particularly in the South - to be unacceptable. It was after more than 10 years working as a public defender that "Jon" sought a way to help reform the public defense systems in Georgia and Louisiana.

In 2007, Rapping founded Gideon's Promise and began an initiative to change the public defense landscape across America by grooming a generation of public defenders -many of whom are often so overwhelmed by crushing caseloads that they are unable to provide their clients the representation the Constitution demands - to rise up and combat the injustice within our justice system.

Rapping and his organization have become symbols of a new Civil Rights movement because of their quest to train and equip public defenders with the resources necessary to ensure all citizens receive their Constitutional right of "equal justice for all."

Rapping is currently a Professor at Atlanta's John Marshall Law School and Adjunct Professor at Harvard Law School, in addition to his leadership of Gideon's Promise. He is the recipient of the 2014 Emory University MLK Jr. Community Service Award, the 2014 Cardozo Law School Inspire Award, the 2013 Sentencing Project Award from NLADA, the 2011 Emil Gumpert Award, the 2009 Wasserstein Public Interest Fellowship, a 2007 Soros Fellowship along with many other honors and recognitions.


Melina Abdullah is Professor and Chair of Pan-African Studies at California State University, Los Angeles. Dr. Abdullah earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California in Political Science and her B.A. from Howard University in African-American Studies. She was appointed to the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission in 2014 and is a recognized expert on race, gender, class, and social movements. Abdullah is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, with subjects ranging from political coalition building to womanist mothering. Professor Abdullah is a womanist scholar-activist - understanding the role that she plays in the academy as intrinsically linked to broader struggles for the liberation of oppressed people. Professor Abdullah is a leader in the fight for Ethnic Studies in the K-12 and university systems and was a part of the historic victory that made Ethnic Studies a requirement in the Los Angeles Unified School District. She was also among the original group of organizers that convened to form Black Lives Matter and continues to serve as a Los Angeles chapter lead and contributes to the national leadership. She is co-host and co-producer of the weekly radio program "Beautiful Struggle" which airs on KPFK, part of the Pacifica radio network. Dr. Abdullah also serves on boards for the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance (BCCLA), California Faculty Association-Los Angeles, Los Angeles African-American Women's Public Policy Institute, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Reverence-Wellness Salon, and Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Police Education (SCOPE). Dr. Abdullah is the recipient of several awards, most recently the 2016 Fannie Lou Hamer Award presented by the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, 2016 Sacred Sistahs Award, 2016 California Teachers Association Human Rights Award, 2016 BCCLA Ella Baker Award, 2015 Freedom Now Award, and the 2015 Communitas Award. She was recognized by LA Weekly as one of the 10 most influential Los Angeles leaders, "Urban Girl of the Year" by 2UrbanGirls, and one of the 15 "Fiercest Sisters" of 2015 by Fierce. She has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, ABC, PBS, and Al-Jazeera. Dr. Abdullah is originally from Oakland, California; she is a single mother of three young children and resides in Los Angeles.


Born Tyrone Griffin Jr., Ty Dolla $ign has been an in-demand writer, producer, and featured artist since helming YG's 2010 smash, "Toot It and Boot It (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)". Since then, his credits include Chris Brown's #1 hit, "Loyal", Kanye West's "Real Friends" and "Faded", Fifth Harmony's "Work From Home", Rihanna's "FourFiveSeconds (with Kanye West & Paul McCartney)" as well as work with Big Sean "Play No Games (feat. Chris Brown & Ty Dolla $ign)", Trey Songz ("Fumble"), B.o.B ("HeadBand (feat. 2 Chainz)"), and Wiz Khalifa & Snoop Dogg, whose "Young, Wild & Free (feat. Bruno Mars)" proved a GRAMMY® Award-nominated blockbuster. His "BEACH HOUSE" mixtape & EP series earned him further attention, leading Rolling Stone to call Ty one of the "10 New Artists You Need To Know in 2014."


All Def Digital (ADD) is the leading media company for urban-centric youth culture. ADD produces and distributes original content through its own media properties, social channels, traditional and premium television, theatrical motion pictures, live events, brand partnerships through its in-house agency ADHD, and its own record label in partnership with Universal Music Group. ADD also manages a curated network of emerging and established talent including social video stars, stand-up comics, writers, actors, poets and hip hop recording artists. ADD is the fastest growing media brand in urban youth programming, touching over 100 million fans monthly across YouTube and Facebook, with category-leading engagement metrics. The company is headquartered in Los Angeles, California, with offices in New York. Its investors include Nu Horizons, Greycroft Partners, and Advancit Capital.

Steve Elzer
Elzer & Associates

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